Small Acts of Kindness

Last month an article in Good Housekeeping Magazine caught my eye:  50 Simple Acts of Kindness by Katy McColl.  Once again I am reminded that acts of kindness benefit the recipient, plus those who take the time to do them.  Acts of kindness not only help us feel better emotionally and psychologically, but physically as well.      

McColl sites Ph.D. David R. Hamilton, a chemist who left a career developing cardiac and cancer drugs to research the health benefits of kindness, as saying, “Kindness is literally good for your heart.”   Doing acts of kindness releases oxytocin into your system.  Oxytocin is the same brain chemical that surges when you hold your baby, which temporarily lowers blood pressure – unless, of course, your baby is crying. 

Unfortunately, there are always deterrents that discourage us.  Take for example Raymond Dolin who was hitchhiking across country gathering info for his book called The Kindness of America.  He was shot in the arm by a motorist in a random act of violence.  I’m not sure if he was looking for material by doing acts of kindness or recording acts of kindness done for him.   There is some sad but humorous irony here somewhere. 

But I digress…Other studies show that if you help others you actually get more done.  Boston Globe columnist Gareth Cook cites Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton.  “It’s not so much how much time you have, as how you feel about what you can get done…”   In experiments, participants were asked to devote time to others such as writing to an ill child or to do something for themselves.  Those who did a good deed for others consistently always felt like they had more time, so accomplished more. 

It always amazes me when science and studies prove what God has told us all along:  it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35).  Again and again I am reminded through science, studies, statistics, and even God that there are definite benefits in doing acts of kindness.  So what will I do about it????

I admit that I really admire people like the man in Chicago who has committed to doing an act of kindness everyday for a year and blogging about it (  Or the guy who hitchhikes across America recording acts of kindness – although in today’s climate of crime he might want to consider riding the bus.  But let’s face it – I don’t have that level of commitment. 

However I do know there are small things I can do that don’t take an enormous amount of time or energy. Things like…

  • Smiling at others
  • Saying, “Please” and “Thank you!”
  • Writing a note of appreciation
  • Arriving on time
  • Letting someone go ahead of me in line
  • Holding the door open for someone
  • Giving a complement
  • Complaining less
  • Having good driving manners
  • Being interested in others
  • Saying something nice about someone to others

Sure they may seem small and insignificant but Aesop said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.”  So I’ll start small and try to be consistent.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll build a few kind habits and something bigger will grow from it.  After all, I need all the oxytocin I can get!

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